The Christie trials first chemo-free treatment for bowel cancer

Press release posted 24 July 2019

Patients from The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester have taken part in an international clinical trial for the first chemotherapy-free treatment for bowel cancer, which has shown promising results.

The trial involved a combination of targeted treatments for patients with advanced bowel cancer who have the BRAF mutation.  Funded by pharmaceutical companies Pierre Fabre and its partner Array BioPharma, the international phase III trial took place across 230 sites globally.  The study in Manchester took place at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Manchester Clinical Research Facility at The Christie.

If approved it could improve outcomes for patients and would be the first chemotherapy-free treatment option for bowel cancer patients.

In total 600 patients with advanced bowel cancer, where the cancer had spread to other organs, were given the new oral drugs encorafenib and binimetinib, along with Cetuximab, a widely used antibody drug that is given intravenously.

Specifically designed for patients who have the BRAF mutant gene (which averages 12% of all those diagnosed), survival time was found to increase by two-thirds from 5.4 months to 9 months.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer and the second biggest killer with 16,000 deaths from the disease every year.

Dr Michael Braun, Consultant medical oncologist at The Christie and lead researcher for the trial in Manchester said: “Around 10,000 patients in the UK are diagnosed with the advanced form of the disease every year. Unfortunately bowel cancer is the second commonest cause of cancer-related death with nearly half the people with the disease dying. This new drug nearly halved the risk of death and for the first time we are seeing a significant survival rate for this type of cancer which is very promising.”

Laura McMullin, General Manager UK & Ireland, Pierre Fabre said. “These results demonstrate the potential of combining targeted therapies and we are thrilled with the survival outcomes. While the data are from an investigational study only at the moment, they will now be used in our licensing discussions with regulatory bodies so that we can potentially bring this innovative combination to patients as soon as possible.”

In the UK, almost 42,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year. There are around 268,000 people living in the UK today who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.